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Hereditary Prince of Wurttemberg
Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Karl of Wurttemberg, Fritz to his family and later King Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg was born in Lubin (now in Poland) on 27th September 1781. He was the eldest of the three surviving children of Friedrich of Wurttemberg and his wife Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. The couple endured one another's company and fought regularly.
Fritz's early childhood was spent in Russia, where Friedrich was installed as the Governor-General of Eastern Finland. His mother was eventually granted asylum by Catherine the Great, and she died aged twenty-three in Lohde (now Estonia) in 1788.
In 1786 the rest of the family returned to Wurttemberg and the Ludwigsburg Palace. Friedrich was a dominating father who demanded much of his offspring. Father and his eldest son had a strained relationship, and this grew steadily worse. In 1799 Friedrich had his son arrested for daring to "escape" from Wurttemberg.
With Friedrich's 1797 accession as Duke of Wurttemberg, Fritz was proclaimed the Hereditary Prince. The Duchy of Wurttemberg became an electorate in 1803 and a kingdom in 1806, and Friedrich I was duly upgraded from duke to elector to king. (Find out more about the history of the kingdom here: https://www.britannica.com/place/Baden-Wurttemberg )
First Marriage: Fritz and Karoline Auguste
By 1801 Fritz was an Imperial Major General and in lust, possibly love, with Therese von Abel, much to the king's disgust. (Fritz's younger brother Prince Paul had a relationship with her sister, but his liaison with Frederike Margarethe Porth brought a daughter and ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a couple of centuries.)
By 1803 Fritz and Therese were living in Saarburg, far from Friedrich, after Fritz had dared to speak against his father's policies. Tragically, their twins, born in Saarburg, died after a few days.
He returned to Wurttemberg in 1805, and in 1806 the Kingdom of Wurttemberg was subsumed into Napoleon Bonaparte's ever-expanding territories. The French leader decided that his nephew Jerome should marry Fritz's sister Catherina. This came to pass.
Fritz worried that he would be forced into a Napoleon-arranged marriage, so he negotiated with the King of Bavaria to marry his daughter Princess Karoline Auguste. The groom was disinterested in his bride, preoccupied with staying one step ahead of Napoleon, but they were married in Munich on 8th June 1808. Fritz soon acquired a mistress named Blanche la Fleche, Jerome Bonaparte's former lover. Blanche remained in Fritz's life until the end.
Ekaterina Pavlovna of Russia Marries Fritz
You'd have thought that battling Napoleon, and maintaining a wife and a mistress would have kept Fritz busy, but he found time to fall in love in 1814 with the woman who became his second wife. His cousin, Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna of Russia, was the daughter of Tsar Paul I.
As Napoleon found himself in miserable exile, Fritz arranged for divorce from Karoline Auguste. She raised no objections, and neither did their fathers. Fritz and Ekaterina were married in St. Petersburg on 24th January 1816, twelve days after an official annulment from the Pope. Karoline Auguste became the fourth wife of Franz I of Austria on 29th October 1816.
The following day Fritz was proclaimed King Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg when his father passed away. He also ceased to be Fritz or Friedrich. He took the regal name Wilhelm to distance himself from his father's reign. Ekaterina became Catherine.
Ekaterina and Fritz had two daughters, Marie Frederike and Sophie. Sophie became Queen of the Netherlands through an 1839 marriage (that she resisted) to Willem III of the Netherlands.
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Duchess Pauline of Wurttemberg: Third Wife and Another Cousin of Wilhelm I
1816 was known as the "year without a summer" as the temperatures in the northern hemisphere remained low. Crops, livestock and humans were threatened. In Wurttemberg, human suffering and food shortages were widespread, so Wilhelm and Ekaterina implemented measures to make life easier for their people.
Ekaterina died in 1819. The king had continued his relationship with his mistress Blanche during two marriages and fathered a son with her, and he had no intention of parting with her. He pragmatically started to search for a suitable stepmother for his daughters and a queenly figure who might provide him with a son and heir. He settled on another of his cousins, the Duchess Pauline of Wurttemberg, and married her on 15th April 1820.
This marriage produced three children. Firstly, in 1821 Katherina, then the long-awaited son in 1823 called Karl, and lastly Augusta, who arrived in 1826.
King Wilhelm I's Wurttemberg
The couple managed to convince the people that their marriage was a happy and successful partnership; it was the reverse. The king still enjoyed the company of his mistress Blanche and pious Pauline railed against the lack of respect she was shown. In 1828 he initiated a relationship with the German actress Amalie von Straubenrauch. He and Amalie remained together until his death in 1864, with Blanche popping by as his whim dictated.
Wurttemberg was generally prosperous under his rule. The infrastructure and economy improved in the 1830s; the 1840s brought famine and protests. He weathered the storm of revolution in 1848, although he had to reduce his powers to stay on the throne. Pauline was his dutiful wife in public, adding to his security as king because the people adored her.
The King's Final Insult to His Queen
As he grew older and his health was less robust, he barely interacted with his family. The king was in Amalie's company as much as he could be. When he realised that he was dying, he ordered the destruction of reams of his documents and letters.
He passed away on 25th June 1864 at Schloss Rosenstein in Stuttgart. He was buried in the Wurttemberg Mausoleum in the city with his second wife, Ekaterina Pavlovna.
As a final insult, Pauline was left nothing in his will despite receiving generous bequests from two of his mistresses, Therese and Blanche. Pauline spent much of her widowhood in Switzerland and died in Stuttgart on 10th March 1873. She was buried at the schlosskirche at Ludwigsburg Palace, far from Wilhelm.
Their son Karl ruled as King Karl I of Wurttemberg from 1864 until his death in 1891. He married in 1846, but there were no children. Karl was homosexual and found love with American Charles Woodcock until scandal parted them.
- William I | emperor of Germany | Britannica
- Karl I, King of Württemberg | Unofficial Royalty
- Wilhelm I, King of Württemberg | Unofficial Royalty
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Joanne Hayle